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Sustainable Operations

Sustainability is core to the U.S. Forest Service mission. It goes beyond managing healthy, resilient forests. It’s also about investing in our natural and built infrastructure, and our day-to-day operations, to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and protect clean air, healthy soils, and drinking water. We strive to mitigate our contributions to climate change, to be net zero in our operations by 2050, and act as a climate positive Agency. Examples of current initiatives are listed below.

Fleet Electrification and Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

The Forest Service has invested in hybrid and electric vehicles for many years and is ramping up efforts to meet the goals of Executive Order 14057: Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability, and further electrify our fleet.  Our Eastern Region is piloting the Ford F150 Lightning for field use. Additionally, we are working to provide charging stations for employees and the public at many of our locations in the near future, making it easier to get outside and access all your National Forests have to offer!

Energy and Water Conservation

The U.S. Forest Service is committed to data-driven decision-making. We are creating a new energy data management system to allow us to track the energy and water use of our facilities and associated greenhouse gas emissions. We use this data to inform where to invest in energy and water conservation projects. We recently engaged in a Blanket Purchase Agreement with Siemans to begin work on larger energy savings performance contracts, some of which include installation of solar photovoltaic panels to help reduce our reliance on grid-based energy and improve the efficiency, reliability, and environmental aspects of our work.

Net Zero Waste and Recycling Initiative

To reduce waste and increase recycled materials, the Forest Service is piloting several net zero waste initiatives. These efforts have centered on the installation of waste metering camera-based technology, which allow the contents and volume of waste containers to be tracked and assessed remotely. This approach allows waste managers to not only more closely monitor what materials are being thrown away (and therefore implement new recycling efforts), but also reduce the number of weekly waste hauls, thereby decreasing the associated greenhouse gas emissions from trucks driving to and from waste pickups.

Greening Fire

The Greening Fire Team is a voluntary group of interagency employees working to achieve net zero environmental impact on large fire incidents by 2030. The team engages individuals across organizational levels and sectors to develop and implement sustainability best management practices (BMP's) in incident operations.

Green Purchasing

Green purchasing practices are geared toward sourcing sustainable materials, products, and services to reduce the environmental impact and emissions associated with our buying choices. The U.S. Forest supports initiatives such as the Federal Buy Clean Initiative, which encourages suppliers to identify US-based sources for their materials, as well as the Made in America Initiative. In the future, the federal government will also begin to track Scope 3 emissions, which include our supply chain.

Wood is Good

No matter where we live, forests play an important role in our lives. Healthy forests reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, thus combating climate change. Sequestered carbon is stored in trees, soil, the wood debris on the forest floor, and in long-lasting products made from harvested wood. Read more about long-lasting products on the Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory website. Read more about our wood products innovation work within our State, Private and Tribal Forestry branch.

Vehicle Idling Practice

The U.S. Forest Service aims to save money and improve human and environmental health through the elimination of unnecessary vehicle idling and associated emissions. This practice reduces per-mile greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle fuel and maintenance costs.  Learn more about it by watching our Vehicle Idling Myth video.

A picture of a white USDA Forest Service vehicle with the USDA Forest Service insignia on the door.


Net Zero

Net Zero is a goal to reach the point where our daily operations are in balance with our environment. When we achieve Net Zero, our ecological footprint is neutral. Working towards balance between people and planet is essential to ensuring sufficient resources for future generations. People have an impact on the environment in many ways. The Forest Service focuses Net Zero efforts on energy, fleet, waste, and water. Learn more about Net Zero.

A graphic that states Net Zero is a goal to reach the point where our business operations are in balance with our environment..


Sustainable Buildings

The Forest Service has guidelines in place to ensure that our newly constructed facilities achieve a sustainability performance beyond what is required under federal law. The Agency has design guidelines and elements in place to guide this work and pursues certifications such as LEED or Green Globes for new buildings. The Agency also has tools, for example, the Built Environment Image Guide, which outline principles of sustainability and how our facilities should reflect their places within natural and cultural landscapes.